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Roswell 1947 - investigations in the 1990's

Col. Blanchard and the Roswell timeline, by Kevin Randle:


When a Leave is not a Leave: Col. Blanchard and the Roswell Timeline

by Kevin D. Randle

In the complex story that comprises the Roswell incident, side issues sometimes attain a momentary importance. For example, Gerald Anderson, who claimed to have seen a crashed saucer on the Plains of San Agustin in early July 1947, submitted a phone bill which purported to document the length of a conversation with me. The length of the call in itself was trivial. It became significant only when it became apparent that the bill had been doctored. Without that bill and Anderson's subsequent admission that he had tampered with it, we might still be debating the validity of his story. It revealed something critical to our understanding of Anderson's testimony and its place in the larger scheme of things. A discussion of the matter appears in IUR, July/August 1992.

A new question, seemingly trivial but in fact important, concerns the time Col. William Blanchard, commanding officer of the 509th Bomb Group, went on leave in July 1947. In his recent monograph Roswell in Perspective (published by the Fund for UFO Research, Box 277, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712), Karl T. Pflock suggests that Blanchard began his leave on July 9, 1947, instead of July 8, as Donald R. Schmitt and I have insisted. Pflock writes,

According to the 509th's headquarters morning report and a tiny Associated Press story in the July 10 Albuquerque Journal, the ninth (not the eighth) was the day he began a three week leave in Santa Fe and Colorado... [H]e was on his way north on a long planned vacation.

Pflock continues:

Taken together, these admittedly fragmentary and in some part questionable bits of testimony and documentation point to a delay before the 509th was instructed to treat the Brazel discovery as a sensitive matter. They also suggest Blanchard may have personally conveyed this guidance to those in the field, perhaps as he was on his way north on a long-planned vacation - although some have contended he headed somewhere else entirely.

It appears that Pflock has misunderstood the significance of Blanchard's leave and the timing of the events. In fact, when examined carefully, it becomes clear that the timing actually reinforces the theory that the 509th was involved in the situation before rancher Mac Brazel arrived in Roswell with the box of debris on July 6.

The first part of Pflock's analysis can be resolved without debate, varied interpretation of eyewitness testimony, or rancor. We can review the situation and draw a valid conclusion about it based on all the documentation currently available.

First, we have the testimony of Lt. Col. Joseph Briley. (According to the unit history, Briley became the Operations Officer in the middle of July. Prior to that he had been a squadron commander.) Briley asserts Blanchard had gone to the crash site. Available information indicates that this visit was made on July 8 and that Blanchard's leave began on July 8. The leave was actually a cover for Blanchard's activities revolving around the crash.

But Pflock attempts to refute this idea, drawing on Robert Shirkey's testimony:

It is entirely possible, even likely, Blanchard went to the debris field to survey the situation personally. However, reliable testimony suggests he did not do so on the afternoon of July 8. First, according to Robert Shirkey, about mid-afternoon that day he was with Blanchard in the Roswell AAF [Army Air Force] operations building, where the colonel personally was overseeing the dispatch of the B-29 which took Jesse Marcel and some of the debris to Fort Worth. Second, Walter Haut vividly recalls Blanchard's colorfully complaining to him that same afternoon about not being able to place outside telephone calls because the base switchboard was tied up with inquiries about the flying saucer.

While this is interesting, it is not especially significant. According to other testimony, the debris put on the aircraft arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, about 4 p.m. local time, or 3 p.m. Roswell time. Newspaper articles and testimony from J. Bond Johnson suggest the debris was in Eighth Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey's office about that time. It means, simply, that Blanchard was on the base at Roswell until the flight's departure, about 1:30 p.m. Roswell time, and then left on his leave. There is nothing contradictory about this, and it allows for both points to be correct.

Second, as Pflock suggests, the morning reports show that Blanchard was present for duty on July 8 but had signed out on leave before the morning report was created on July 9. These documents are available from the Army in St. Louis, and I recovered a complete set of the headquarters morning reports (which were indirectly supplied to Pflock) from June 1 to July 31, 1947, through the Freedom of Information Act.

This, too, does not contradict the proposition that Blanchard went on leave on July 8. If Blanchard signed out on leave in the afternoon of July 8, then the morning report would show him present on the eighth and gone on the ninth - which is exactly what it does show.

The newspaper article Pflock quotes is interesting but probably irrelevant. It is, after all, a newspaper article, and it shows, again, that Blanchard was gone on the ninth. It does not tell us when he signed out from the base.

The critical piece of evidence is Special Order Number 9, issued by Headquarters, 509th Bomb Group, and dated July 8, 1947. It says, "Pursuant to the authority contained in Hqs. 8th Air Force TWX number A1 1593 6 July 1947, the undersigned hereby assumes control of the Roswell Army Air Field, Roswell New Mexico. Effective this date." It was signed by Payne Jennings, Lt. Col. A.C. (Air Corps), commanding.

Here is the definitive proof. Jennings assumed command on the eighth. Therefore Blanchard went on leave on the eighth. If Blanchard went on leave on the ninth, as Pflock would have us believe, then the special order would reflect that. Eighth Air Force would not want to create a situation whereby two commanders were on station at the same time.

Other evidence

Some other points must be considered. What the Special Order does is show military interest in the case days before July 8. It shows that Blanchard's leave was not long planned because the TWX was sent on July 6, a Sunday. Had it been a long-planned leave, the TWX would have been sent earlier. If it was a long-planned leave, there was no reason to wait until Sunday, July 6, before sending the TWX. That date becomes important when it is placed in the context of all the activities of that critical weekend.

In fact, we can see that the military were interested in the case before Mac Brazel's arrival. If his arrival had been the reason for that interest, nothing official would have happened on July 6. Brazel arrived with debris that was interesting, but if we follow the conventional wisdom, that is all it was, until Jesse Marcel and the counter-intelligence agent returned late on July 7. If the headquarters had waited for their return and for the cursory examination of the debris on the morning of July 8, then the documentation would have been dated no earlier than that day. The TWX demonstrates the military were interested prior to July 8.

The TWX and the Special Order resulted from rumors circulating in Roswell. Military officials, in both Roswell and Fort Worth, probably in consultation with Washington, decided that Blanchard had better monitor the activities. Their problem was, after the story began to leak, the news media would have noticed Blanchard's absence. Without Brazel's arrival and the rumors spreading through Roswell, there would have been no reason to cover Blanchard's absence or to grant him a leave.

This leads to another point, one not lost on the military planners. If the story was so important, if it involved a real flying saucer, would Blanchard leave the base? Surely the commanding officer of the 509th would not want to be off the base and out of town when the biggest event of the twentieth century took place, unless his leave itself was part of the cover-up.

On the other hand, if it was nothing more than a weather balloon, as the military claimed publicly, then the absence of the commander wouldn't matter. Blanchard wouldn't be expected to cancel his leave over something so trivial as a crashed weather balloon.

So the TWX on July 6 becomes as important as the Special Order because it demonstrates what was happening inside the military. They were responding to the events of the day before. They were preparing for what was coming. The TWX on July 6 suggests that the military already knew about the crash on the sixth, and they knew because of what had been found on the impact site by military officers on July 5.

Let us examine one more aspect of the case. By July 8, when the press got interested in the Roswell case, the key players had been removed. Mac Brazel was in military custody, held in the guest house at the base, according to Maj. Edwin Easley, the 509th Provost Marshal. Jesse Marcel, the only man mentioned by name in the press release, is no longer in Roswell but on his way to Fort Worth, or already there and insulated by Gen. Ramey. And Col. Blanchard? He was on leave, heading to the north and into Colorado.

Even if we ignore the testimonies of Steve MacKenzie [1] and Jim Ragsdale [discredited witness], who describe activities on the impact site during the recovery of the craft and bodies, we can still offer testimony to the 509th's involvement prior to the July 8 press announcement. Leo Spear, a military policeman in Roswell in July 1947, reported hearing other MPs return to the barracks talking about the crashed flying saucer. Like the others who had not been used as guards, Spear thought they were making up the story. But Spear says that when he read about the saucer in the newspaper (July 8), a day or two after he had heard from his fellow MPs, he changed his mind.

In other words, he had heard about the crash from the guards prior to the press release. The release convinced him their stories were true. This corroborates the reports of those who claim military involvement on july 5 and supports the idea that the military were preparing for contingencies on July 6. It suggests they knew a great deal more much earlier than researchers have believed until recently.

Support of the new timeline

All of this refutes Pflock's theories about Blanchard's leave. Pflock appears to have drawn his conclusions without having reviewed all the relevant documents or testimonies. It is clear that the military were active in the Roswell affair on July 5 and that they were planning for all contingencies on July 6 by, among other things, putting Blanchard on leave.

What we can do is restructure the timeline based on the testimony of the participants and underscore the validity of those changes with existing documentation. The old timeline suggested no military interest until Mac Brazel arrived. After all, how could the military begin a recovery before they knew a crash had occurred?

We now know they didn't. They knew of the crash on July 5 and commenced recovery operations then. Blanchard's leave is the key to understanding this. First we have to ask, why would anyone begin a leave on a Tuesday afternoon? Or, even if we accept Pflock's analysis, why begin on a Wednesday?

Leaves normally start at the close of business on Friday afternoon, allowing two extra days because of the weekend. With Blanchard in a high-profile position, he might not have been able to do that, but surely he would have signed out on Monday morning, not Tuesday afternoon. The only exception would be an emergency leave, but that doesn't seem to have been the case. Nothing in the documentation indicates that Blanchard was responding to a personal emergency such as a sick family member. Based on the fragmentary documentation he produces, Pflock concludes that the leave was routine.

The circumstances and the Special Order No. 9 refute that notion. They show the military were responding to a critical situation. Blanchard's leave was neither routine nor emergency in the normal sense. Blanchard was being freed to respond to the situation as necessary without having to worry about awkward questions from reporters. To summarize: Blanchard began his leave on Tuesday, July 8. It was not long planned. It was a response to the events of July 5, when the military recovered a flying saucer just north of Roswell. The situation became critical when Brazel found the debris field and reported it, not only to the military officers at the Roswell Army Air Field but also to the local sheriff and a reporter for a radio station.

Kevin D. Randle, an IUR contributing editor, is coauthor of The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell (1994).

My notes:

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